For many kids undergoing speech therapy, the experience can become mundane and unenjoyable. For the children at the WordPlay Therapy Center, in Brentwood, California, though, therapy is a fun experience, one many of the kids look forward to throughout the week.
Once a week, Malcolm (Mal), a Bouvier des Flanders, comes to the San Francisco Bay-area center. The dog plays a variety of roles, depending upon the child's specific needs.
At times, he simply sits and listens, offering a non-judgmental ear while a child practices words or sounds the child had worked on during a regular session.
At times, Mal plays the role of a confidence-booster, listening to and obeying the instructions of the children at the center. This helps the children to feel better about their language skills.
Mal also works as a listening ear when it comes time for children to read to him as part of Reading Education Assistance Dogs (READ). This allows shy or struggling children the opportunity to practice both their reading and speech skills.
Overall, Mal offers the kids a real-world, less pressure speech experience, one that they would not get from a traditional speech therapy session where the kids might do role-play exercises or other activities. Perhaps, though, the best role Mal plays is the role of friend. Whether the child needs a hug, a calming influence, or simply acceptance, Mal is a friend to the many students he interacts with each week.
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